Monday, December 01, 2008

Bill Pre-filing Begins

JEFFERSON CITY — Today (12/1) marked the first day that Missouri senators could begin the pre-introduction of bills for the 2009 legislative session.

In preparation for the beginning of the legislative session in January, Missouri Senate rules allow bills to be pre-filed on December 1. It is customary that each member of the Senate, beginning with the most senior member, picks his or her top three priority bills, which are then each assigned a number.

Lawmakers may pre-file bills continuing up to, but not including, the first day of session. Bills filed during this pre-introduction period are automatically introduced and read the first time on the opening day of session. Bills may also be introduced by any senator during the session, up until a certain deadline.

The First Regular Session of the 95th Missouri General Assembly begins Jan. 7, 2009. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Senate Members, Members-elect Choose Leaders for 2009-2010 Session

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri state senators and senators-elect caucused at the capitol building today (11/6) to choose leaders for the 95th General Assembly, which begins in two months.
The majority caucus unanimously endorsed current majority floor leader Senator Charlie Shields (R-Buchannan) as president pro tem, taking over for outgoing Senate leader Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood). Among a number of powers as Senate leader, the pro tem appoints committee members, assigns bills to committees and rules on points of order raised during chamber debate. (The caucus vote on this top Senate leadership post will be put before the full body in January.)
Current majority whip Senator Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) was tapped to fill the majority floor leader slot to be vacated by Sen. Shields. Among several duties, the majority floor leader sets the schedule of bills to be debated by the full body, the time allotted for floor debate on said bills, and the meeting times and dates of the Senate.
Senator Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon) continues as assistant majority floor leader. Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) will serve as majority “whip,” a caucus shepherding and marshalling position also found in congress. Senator Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), will serve as majority caucus chair. Senator Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City) continues as majority caucus secretary.
The minority caucus chose Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence) as minority floor leader, taking over for outgoing Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), and as such will help set legislative priorities for the minority party and lead the effort to advance said priorities.
Senator Rita Heard Days (D-North St. Louis County) was tapped to fill the assistant minority floor leader position being vacated by outgoing Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia). Senator Frank Barnitz (D-Lake Spring) continues as minority caucus chair. Senator Yvonne Wilson (D-Kansas City) continues as minority caucus secretary. (The Senate minority caucus does not employ a whip position.)
The majority-minority party ratio in the 34-seat Senate is currently 20-14. If results from the November 4 elections stand as is through any recounts (one may occur in the 1st District) and certification by the secretary of state’s office, the Senate member party ratio would be 23-11 in the coming year.
By the state’s constitution, Missouri’s lieutenant governor also serves as president of the Senate, and as such may preside over chamber proceedings. Peter Kinder (R-Missouri), took on these two posts beginning in 2005, and is slated to serve a second four-year term beginning in 2009.
The First Regular Session of the 95th General Assembly begins January 7, 2009. Bills pre-filed this year for the upcoming session will be numbered beginning December first. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Senate Leader Signs Passed Bills

JEFFERSON CITY — Today Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) returned to the Capitol to sign off on the legislation that received final approval from the General Assembly during the 2008 Missouri legislative session.

Sen. Gibbons, whose service in the Senate draws to a close this year, added his signature to several bills ranging in topic from property tax reform to illegal immigration. The bills he signed were delivered to the governor for approval. A signature from the governor turns the legislation into law.

The 2008 regular session concluded May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Senate’s Hot Weather Rule Clears House

JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians in need of relief during the state’s hot and humid summers may soon be protected under Senate Bill 720, which today was passed by the Missouri House.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), creates a hot weather rule for utility companies by prohibiting them from shutting off service to past-due residential customers on days when the temperature is forecasted to rise above 95 degrees or the heat index above 105 degrees. The rule takes effect between June 1 and September 30.

Sen. Coleman’s proposed law is similar to the cold weather rule already in place that prohibits utilities from shutting off service between March and November when the temperature is forecasted to dip below 32 degrees.

Senate Bill 720 now returns to the Senate for approval of any changes made by the lower chamber.

The 2008 regular session runs through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Senate’s Property Tax Reform Passed by House

JEFFERSON CITY — Property tax relief is one step closer for Missourians after the Missouri House today passed Senate Bill 711, a long-awaited initiative that changes how property taxes are assessed in the state.

Senate Bill 711, sponsored by Senate leader Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), requires all taxing jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling, to roll back their tax rate to counter reassessment increases. Under current law, only taxing jurisdictions operating at their tax rate ceiling are required by Missouri's Constitution to roll back to protect taxpayers, leaving taxing entities operating below their ceiling to approve undisclosed tax increases with no legal recourse available for taxpayers.

The legislation would also close a gap in Missouri law that allows taxing districts to apply new voter-approved levies to future assessments that remain unknown. For example, currently taxing jurisdictions can take a tax increase approved by the voters in 2008 and then apply that new tax rate to the higher reassessed value in 2009.

It also requires that taxpayers receive more information in the mail regarding their property tax responsibility in the form of a projected tax liability statement along with their reassessment notices. Charter counties would provide these in 2009, with all other counties participating by 2011. Additionally, SB 711 increases the Senior Citizen Property Tax Credit from $750 to $1,100, and expands those eligible to include homeowners with an income of up to $30,000 for singles and $40,000 for married couples.

Members of the Senate and House will meet in a conference committee to reach a compromise on the legislation between the two chambers. Following approval from the conference committee, SB 711 will be sent back to the Senate and House for a final vote of approval before moving to the governor’s desk.

The 2008 regular session runs through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Senate’s Rebuild Missouri Schools Program Moves to House

JEFFERSON CITY — Today the Missouri Senate gave a second vote to the Rebuild Missouri Schools Program — legislation that allows no-interest funding to rebuild certain damaged school facilities in the state.

Senate Bill 1170, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), would allow the state board of education to distribute no-interest loans to school districts that have sustained significant building damage or destruction due to catastrophic events. The bill gives school districts with one or more school facilities declared a disaster area by the governor or president the opportunity to apply for no-interest loans through a 20-year repayment agreement.

Under the program, schools districts eligible for the Rebuild Missouri Schools Program must have experienced a pre-set level of damage or destruction as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency due to an “act of God.”

Two years ago, a devastating tornado nearly destroyed the school in Caruthersville, which is located in Sen. Mayer’s district.

The 2008 regular session runs through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Senate Adopts Horse Processing Resolution

JEFFERSON CITY — Today the Missouri Senate adopted a resolution urging Congress to support the continuation of horse processing in the United States.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 35, sponsored by Sen. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence), asks Congress to support the continuation of horse processing in the U.S. and offer incentives to help create horse processing plants throughout the country. It also encourages Congress to oppose two federal bills, S. 311 and H.R. 503, which relate to the slaughtering of horses and other equine animals for human consumption.

In 2006, Congress voted to ban the transport and slaughter of horses for human consumption, forcing horse processing plants to close and eliminating the export of processed equine meat. The Horse Welfare Coalition estimates between 90,000 and 100,000 unwanted horses are now exposed to abandonment and neglect.

The 2008 regular session runs through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Senate Bill Reducing Tuition Rates for Veterans Passed by House

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation establishing the “Missouri Returning Heroes Act” today was passed by the House and now moves back to the Senate for the approval of any changes made by the lower chamber.

Senate Bill 830, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), requires any public university or college that receives state funds to provide certain combat veterans with lower tuition rates for programs leading to a certificate, or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Institutions of higher education may charge no more than $50 per credit hour to qualified combat veterans.

Eligible veterans include those who served in armed combat after Sept. 11, 2001, who were Missouri residents when first entering the military, and who were honorably discharged from military service. To continue receiving reduced tuition rates, a veteran must maintain at least a cumulative 2.5 GPA. Eligible veterans have 10 years from the date of their last discharge from service to receive lowered tuition rates.

If the Senate and House reach an agreement on SB 830, it will move to the governor’s desk for signing into law.

The 2008 regular session runs through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Senate's MOHELA Bill Signed by Senate Leader

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) today signed off on Senate Bill 967, effectively sending the measure to the governor’s desk where it awaits approval.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) allows the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA) to expand its student loan offerings by permitting the state-sponsored organization to serve as the original source for federal Stafford loans.

Currently, MOHELA is one of the only state-based student loan lending institutions in the country that does not originate, or serve as the original funding source for federally-guaranteed Stafford loans. Other federal loans are available under the same Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), but MOHELA was not authorized to originate Stafford loans.

Federal loans are generally the most affordable loans available to students with the best interest rates and deferred payments until after graduation. By allowing MOHELA to expand its current offerings, students approved for Stafford loans could choose MOHELA from among a list of eligible lenders.

Senate Bill 967 received final approval from the Senate earlier this month, and was passed yesterday (4/28) by the House.

The 2008 regular session will run through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Senate's Tax Credit Bill Endorsed by House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Bill 718, sponsored by Sen. Harry Kennedy (D-St. Louis), was passed today by the House Special Committee on Job Creation and Economic Development. The bill is now eligible for further debate on the House floor.

The primary component of the legislation extends the life of the Missouri Quality Jobs Act, an initiative enacted by the Legislature in 2005 to attract and retain employers by offering tax credits to companies paying workers the average, or above-average county wage, and offering to pay at least 50 percent of the premium for basic health insurance. The original legislation suspended the issuance of tax credits through the program as of last summer; SB 718 extends the tax credit program through August 30, 2013. It also increases the maximum amount of tax credits that can be issued under the act from $40 million to $60 million.

Other maximums for certain state tax credit programs would be increased as well. For instance, tax credit ceilings for the Neighborhood Assistance Act for economic development projects would increase from $4 million to $6 million. The cap on the annual issuance of tax credits for the enhanced enterprise zone tax credit program would increase from $14 million to $24 million. Also, the aggregate cap on tax credits that may be issued annually under the Small Business Incubators Act would increase from $500,000 to $2 million.

Finally, any applicant for state tax credits who knowingly and directly employs illegal immigrants would be required to forfeit any received tax credits that have yet to be used. Any spent tax credits would be repaid for the period of time in which the recipient employed illegal workers.

The 2008 regular session will run through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

-END-

Senate Bill Barring Felons from Holding Public Office Receives First Nod

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate gave first-round approval today to Senate Bill 1245, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin). A second vote sends the bill to the House for similar consideration.

Under current law, any person who commits a felony in Missouri is ineligible to run for public office. However, the law does not specify whether or not a felony committed in another state would also disqualify a candidate.

Senate Bill 1245 clarifies the statute by explicitly stating that those who commit a felony in Missouri or commit a crime that would be considered a felony in Missouri in another state, are barred from qualifying as a candidate for or holding public office.

The 2008 regular session will run through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Senators Named to Budget Conference Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) today appointed five senators to serve on the Appropriations Conference Committee, which will further discuss the state budget for fiscal year 2009.

Senators Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), Robert Mayer (R-Dexter), Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville), Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), and Tim Green (D-St. Louis) will all serve on the conference committee that is charged with helping to reach a compromise between the two chambers on the Missouri budget. The committee’s suggestions will then be sent to the General Assembly for approval before moving to the governor’s desk.

The Senate Appropriations Committee received a House-approved budget in late March and brought revisions before the full Senate last week. The initiatives, House Bills 2001 through 2013, each allocate funds to specific departments and areas. Of these 13 budget bills brought before the General Assembly, only HB 2001 has received final approval from both chambers. House Bills 2002 through 2013 will be discussed in the conference committee, which will also include five House members.

Highlights of the Senate’s proposed $22.6 billion budget include a $121.3 million increase to fully fund the state’s Foundation Formula, a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees, and $340 million for a proposed health-care program. As it stands, the budget has increased by $356.4 million from last year.

The Missouri Constitution requires the Legislature to pass the budget one week before the legislative session ends. This year’s deadline falls on May 9.

The 2008 regular session will run through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wide-Ranging Child-Related Bill Approved By House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate bill that protects those who report incidents of child abuse, as well as addresses other issues relating to children was passed by the House Special Committee on Family Services this week. Committee approval sends the measure to the House floor for debate.

Senate Bill 885, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia), provides immunity from any civil or criminal liability to any person who reports a case of suspected child abuse, neglect, or assault to the proper authorities — including liability for any action taken by an institution, facility or agency. The measure also allows investigation reports of child abuse or neglect to be released to the alleged offender with pending criminal charges stemming from facts named in the report prior to an indictment. Currently, the offender has 60 days from receiving notice from the Central Registry of the Children’s Division to seek a reversal and a review of the findings by the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board. The offender also has 60 days to seek judicial review of the board’s decision. Sen. Graham’s bill reduces the time period from 60 days to 30 days in both instances.

Current law prohibits juvenile courts from placing a child with a parent if that parent or any person in the residence is found guilty of or has pled guilty to child abuse or a felony sexual offense involving a child. Senate Bill 885 expands it further to include acts committed in other states.

The legislation also makes it clear that parents and legal guardians of minors have a fundamental right to determine the care, health care, teaching and education of their child, as long as those decisions do not violate current state laws. Sen. Graham’s bill revises the definition of “parent’ as it applies to parental rights, to include a birth parent, a presumed father of the child, as well as the husband of the birth mother at the time the child was conceived, or a parent of a child by adoption. A presumed father would not have a legal relationship with the child unless he acknowledges the child by asserting his paternity.

Finally, the measure lowers the age for which the juvenile court does not have jurisdiction over a child who purportedly violates a state or municipal traffic ordinance or regulation from 15 and a half to 15 years of age. It also allows a peace officer in Missouri, upon a request by another peace officer or prosecuting attorney in the state or any other state, as well as the federal government, to disclose records or any other information involving a person under 17 years old.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Senate's Property Tax Reform Bill Clears House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate’s solution for dealing with rising property taxes, Senate Bill 711, was passed by the House Ways and Means Committee today.

Senate Bill 711, sponsored by Senate leader Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), requires all taxing jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling, to roll back their tax rate to offset reassessment increases. Under current law, only taxing jurisdictions operating at their tax rate ceiling are required by Missouri's Constitution to roll back to protect taxpayers, leaving taxing entities operating below their ceiling to approve undisclosed tax increases with no legal remedy for taxpayers.

The legislation would also close a loophole that has allowed taxing districts to apply new voter-approved levies to future and unknown assessments. For example, under the current law, taxing jurisdictions can take a tax increase approved by the voters in 2008 and then apply that new tax rate to the higher reassessed value in 2009.

It also requires that taxpayers receive more information regarding their property tax responsibility in the form of a projected tax liability statement along with their reassessment notices. Charter counties would provide these in 2009, with all other counties participating by 2011. Additionally, SB 711 increases the Senior Citizen Property Tax Credit from $750 to $1,100, and expands those eligible to include homeowners with an income of up to $30,000 for singles and $40,000 for married couples.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Green Sales Tax Holiday Approved by Senate Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate bill that proposes a sales tax break for green-friendly consumers was passed by the Senate Commerce, Energy and Environment Committee today.

Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis) is sponsoring Senate Bill 1117, which creates the "Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday” to encourage the purchase of energy efficient home appliances. Beginning in 2009 and each following year, the seven-day tax break would run April 19 through April 25. The first $1,500 Missourians pay per Energy Star-certified appliance would be exempt from state sales tax.

Cities and counties may opt in to the sales tax holiday at their discretion. If enacted, the measure will expire August 28, 2012.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Forensic Exam Bill Receives First-Round Approval from Senate

JEFFERSON CITYSenate Bill 1159, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) received first-round approval from the Missouri Senate today.

The measure changes how forensic examinations are conducted for victims of sexual assault. For instance, if a medical provider believes that the offender is the victim’s parent or guardian, and the victim is under the age of 18, the medical provider is only required to provide written notice of an exam to the parent or guardian not suspected of committing sexual assault.

When conducting a forensic exam and providing treatment, medical professionals follow a checklist developed by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Sen. Gibbons’ legislation also requires the department to develop a kit for medical providers to use to collect evidence, if necessary.

Under current law, DHSS pays medical providers to cover any forensic exam charges for sexual assault victims. Senate Bill 1159 requires that medical providers be paid from a newly created fund that has the specific purpose of paying the costs of such exams.

A second vote sends the bill to the House for similar consideration. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Senate Endorses Bill to Better Autism Education and Services for Missourians

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation that offers Missourians living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) comprehensive resources for diagnosis, treatment and other services received first-round approval from the Missouri Senate yesterday. A second vote sends the bill to the House for similar consideration.

Senate Bill 768, sponsored by Sen. Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville), creates the Missouri Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders that will advise the governor, members of the General Assembly and state agencies, as well as develop a sweeping statewide plan for an integrated system of training, treatment and services for people of all ages with ASD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism strikes one in 150 children in the United States — more than AIDS, juvenile diabetes and cancer combined. Last year, the General Assembly more than doubled the funding for autism diagnosis and treatment, helping to shorten the wait time for individuals needing services.

The measure is the result of several recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism created last year by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) to help formulate a plan for how the state can improve services relating to ASD. The 16-member panel, consisting of parents, lawmakers, doctors, educators and other healthcare professionals, held hearings across Missouri to listen to testimony from experts and those affected by autism. The panel presented its report in December and can be viewed online at www.senate.mo.gov/autism.

Under the legislation, the Office of Autism Services would also be formed to serve as a starting point for families and direct them to the proper diagnosis and treatment services, helping Missouri families find the proper resources quickly and efficiently.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Senate Advances Supplemental Funding Bill

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate today passed a supplemental budget bill that will now move back to the House. Each session the Legislature considers funding needs that arise during the middle of the budget year and makes adjustments accordingly through an all-encompassing supplemental budget bill. House Bill 2014 allocates additional funding to various state departments, agencies and programs for fiscal year 2008.

One program scheduled to receive funding through HB 2014 is the Foundation Formula. This formula appropriates funding divided among schools based on student need, not property value, and ensures that schools receive adequate financial support for their students. Public schools in Missouri received a $132.6 million increase in FY2008 for this phased-in formula and HB 2014 assigns an additional $29.2 million to the program.

Additional funding of $1.5 million for the Sheltered Workshop program is also part of the supplemental budget bill. The workshops provide employment within the private sector for people who have disabilities. A bill passed last year increased the funding for the program and will continue to increase funds until 2011 when the workshops will receive $95 per week and $19 per day per employee.

A bill approved by the General Assembly last year (HB 952) that requires all long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, to have a functional sprinkler system will receive funding through HB 2014. The additional funds will allow the state to hire a person to implement the law.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mid-Session Report: Senate Sends 50+ Bills to the House

JEFFERSON CITY — As of this week’s mid-session recess, the Missouri Senate has given final approval to 54 bills that have now moved to the House for similar consideration. Six others have received preliminary approval and will be sent to the House pending a second vote by the Senate.

Of the 578 Senate bills introduced this legislative session, 149 have been passed by their respective Senate committees and still await discussion by the full body.

Bills of note passed by the Senate so far this session include:

* Senate Bill 711 (Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood): Protects Missouri taxpayers from property tax increases caused by reassessment. The bill closes tax increase loopholes, requires earlier notice and more information regarding reassessment be sent to taxpayers, and expands tax credit eligibility for seniors and the disabled.


* Senate Bill 720 (Sen. Maida Coleman, R-St. Louis): Creates a hot-weather rule by prohibiting electric or natural gas companies from shutting off service to past due customers on days when the temperature is forecasted to rise above 95 degrees or the heat index above 105 degrees.


* Senate Bill 732 (Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield): Anti-meth legislation that strengthens record-keeping procedures of pseudoephedrine products (the key ingredient in meth) and mandates that pharmacies switch to an electronic, rather than written, log. The real-time log would include the signature of the buyer, the name of the product, and the date and time of the purchase.


* Senate Bill 747 (Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville): Attempts to deter underage drinking in Missouri by placing tougher restrictions on minors and those who provide them alcohol. The act also prohibits the possession or use of alcoholic beverage vaporizers, devices that allow alcohol to move more quickly through the bloodstream and cause a faster rate of intoxication.


* Senate Bill 762 (Sen. Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City): Expands the definition of “bullying” as it is used in school districts’ anti-bullying policies to include cyberbullying and electronic communications.


* Senate Bill 935 (Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington): Increases deputy sheriffs’ salaries through a new $10 fee to be collected for serving civil summonses and other court documents. The additional revenue would bolster the salaries of county sheriff deputies statewide, who currently make an average salary of $22,000 per year.


* Senate Bill 1038 (Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph): Repeals Missouri’s campaign contribution limits, allowing individuals to contribute as much as they would like to a political campaign. The bill only affects state candidates; federal donation limits for presidential and congressional candidates would remain the same.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Omnibus Agriculture Bill Receives First-Round Approval from Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate today gave first-round approval to an omnibus ag bill designed to further promote and expand the state’s largest industry. A second Senate vote moves the bill to the House for similar consideration.

Senate Bill 898, sponsored by Sen. Dan Clemens (R-Marshfield), covers a wide-range of topics, including:

* Creation of a tax credit for farming operations participating in odor reduction

activities.

* A tax credit for the costs of constructing alternative fuel vehicle refueling centers.

* A tax deduction for buyers of hybrid vehicles and a tax credit on E-85 gasoline

and biodiesel purchases.

* A sales tax exemption for the purchase of fuel and fencing materials for

agricultural purposes.

* Expanding an ethanol production grant to include producers using biomass.

* Exempting farm machinery used in conjunction with forestry from state and local

sales tax.

* Lowering the cost of certain dairy-related loans and enacting dairy planning

grants.

* Creation of a mentoring program aimed at helping young people plan and begin

sustainable farming enterprises.

Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence) introduced an amendment to SB 898 during floor debate that was later adopted. The amendment adds school buses to the list of items exempt from motor fuel tax.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Copper Theft Prevention Bill Receives Initial Approval by Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — Today the Missouri Senate gave first-round approval to a bill that would help curb valuable metal theft in Missouri. Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) sponsored the legislation, which requires more detailed record-keeping by scrap metal dealers as well as makes it a felony to steal or unlawfully sell copper or aluminum. A second vote moves the measure to the House for similar consideration.

Senate Bill 1034 addresses a fast-growing theft problem that is affecting many Missourians, from consumers and farmers to business owners and utilities. With certain metal prices at all-time highs, the idea of fast cash proves too enticing for thieves who are stealing items such as telephone cable, copper piping and farming equipment — and creating a significant public safety risk. The legislation requires scrap dealers to obtain driver’s license and vehicle information from the people who sell them copper. Records would include date, time and place of transaction and must be kept for two years after the date of purchase. They would also be made available for inspection by any law enforcement officer.

Certain scrap metal transactions would be exempt from record-keeping when the total is less than $50, or when copper or aluminum is a minor part of the transaction, with exceptions. Payments of more than $100 would be made only by check or another traceable payment method, except for aluminum beverage can purchases. Other provisions include barring scrap metal dealers from purchasing or possessing metal beer kegs for converting to scrap, unless the keg is purchased from a brewer or brewer’s representative. Scrap yards would also be prohibited from purchasing cast iron manhole covers without proof of ownership.

Scrap dealers who violate record-keeping requirements would face a Class A misdemeanor charge and thieves who steal copper and aluminum would be charged with a Class D felony.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Senate’s Property Tax Reform Bill Advances to House

JEFFERSON CITY — The much-anticipated property tax reform bill, Senate Bill 711, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), was given final approval by the full Senate today. It now moves on to the House for similar consideration.

Senate Bill 711 mandates that all taxing jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling, must roll back their tax rate to counter reassessment increases. Currently, only taxing jurisdictions operating at their tax rate ceiling are required by Missouri's Constitution to roll back to protect taxpayers, leaving taxing jurisdictions operating below their ceiling to approve back door tax increases with no legal recourse.

The legislation would also close a loophole that has allowed taxing districts to apply new voter-approved levies to future and unknown assessments. For example, under the current law, taxing jurisdictions can take a tax increase approved by the voters in 2006 and then apply that new tax rate to the higher reassessed value in 2007.

It also requires that taxpayers receive a projected tax liability statement along with their reassessment notices. Charter counties would provide these in 2009, with all other counties participating by 2011. Additionally, SB 711 increases the Senior Citizen Property Tax credit award from $750 to $1,100, and expands those eligible to include homeowners with an income of up to $30,000 for singles and $40,000 for married couples.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Missouri Returning Heroes' Education Act Initially Approved by Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Bill 830, or the Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), today (2/13) received first round approval by the full Senate.

The measure limits the tuition a public Missouri university or college may charge to certain combat veterans to no more than $50 per credit hour for programs that culminate in either the earning of a certificate, or an associate or bachelor’s degree. For veterans to participate in the program, they must have served in armed combat after September 11, 2001, been Missouri residents when they first entered the military and been discharged from their service under honorable conditions.

One stipulation of the act requires veterans to maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average to continue receiving the tuition reduction. Also, the benefit expires 10 years after the veteran’s last discharge from service.

If the Senate gives the bill final approval, it will move to the House for similar consideration. Joint passage moves the bill to the governor.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Senate Advances First Funding Bills

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate yesterday (1/28) passed three supplemental budget bills that will now move on to the governor’s desk for signing into law. Each session the legislature considers funding needs that arise during the middle of the budget year and makes adjustments accordingly through supplemental budget bills.

House Bill 2015 provides $6.4 million in additional funding to Missouri’s Utilicare program, which was established in 1979 to help low-income families with their utility costs. In recent history, Utilicare has been funded solely by the federal government, but in 2006 the state began to once again supplement the program with state dollars so more Missourians could receive assistance. Specifically, the additional funding will be added to the Utilicare Stabilization Fund for the purpose of aiding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP ensures that approximately 22,000 Missouri families who would likely otherwise have their service terminated because of nonpayment have heat through the winter.

The Department of Conservation will also receive financial assistance through House Bill 2021. This legislation gives the department spending authorization for $10 million from the Conservation Commission Fund in order to complete a variety of slated projects. HB 2021 will cover funding for projects the Conservation Commission has committed to complete through June 30, 2008, such as a nature center that will promote conservation and natural history education in Northwest Missouri. The center, currently under construction in St. Joseph, requires $500,000 in additional funding. HB 2021 will provide the amount needed to complete the project.

House Bill 2022 allocates additional funding to the special anti-methamphetamine task force, the Missouri Sheriff’s Methamphetamine Relief Team, or MoSMART. The program employs 40 narcotics officers specifically trained to investigate meth activity in Missouri, which annually ranks at or near the top in meth production among the states. MoSMART had previously been federally funded but Congress failed to approve the money to reauthorize the program. MoSMART will receive $1.9 million in additional funds through HB 2022.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Senators Join Fellow Lawmakers for State of the State Address

JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers from both the Senate and the House of Representatives gathered last night (1/15) for the governor’s State of the State Address. The speech reviewed the accomplishments of 2007 and outlined priorities for 2008.

The speech praised many accomplishments from the previous year. Senators worked hard last session to pass several Senate bills including one reforming Missouri’s healthcare system (SB 577) and another funding capital improvement projects and increased scholarships for higher education in the state (SB 389). Both bills were signed by the governor and became law last year.

The governor’s address echoed many items that senators have announced as the top of their legislative agendas. Healthcare will again be a concern this session as lawmakers work to increase the availability of affordable health insurance. Property tax reform is another issue the General Assembly has been working to address with several bills already filed that are attempting to find solutions to rising property taxes. Fighting illegal immigration will also be a priority for the Senate this year, a goal the governor reiterated in the State of the State.

Last night’s speech also included the governor’s budget priorities. The governor has proposed a $22.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2009 (begins July 1, 2008). The budget proposals include increases for higher education, elementary and secondary education, and health care. The plan also includes tax cuts and economic incentives. The Senate Appropriations Committee continued discussion on these incentives at a committee meeting this morning (1/16).

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Senators Begin Work on Legislation

Second Regular Session of 94th Missouri General Assembly Begins


Jefferson City — Missouri lawmakers gathered this week at the state Capitol to begin the 2008 Legislative Session. Senators gathered in the Senate Chamber at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 9. Work has already begun on a legislative agenda as senators continue to add to the more than 200 measures already filed.

Introductory remarks by the Senate President Pro Tem set several priorities for lawmakers as well as a desire to create legislation that will make life better for Missourians. Issues that will be a priority for the Senate include the rising cost of property taxes, the problems created by illegal immigration, and making healthcare more accessible to more people.

In addition to the more than 200 Senate bills that were prefiled before the session began, 12 measures were introduced on the floor this week. Before work can begin on specific legislation, bills must first be referred to committees. Some of the referrals were made this week, and the task will continue when the Senate convenes next week. Committees will then meet, discuss legislation, and hear public testimony before deciding whether to return the legislation to the full Senate.

The Senate Interim Committee on Funding for County Sheriff Offices met on Thursday to discuss recommendations. The committee has been studying current funding levels for county sheriffs offices across Missouri. The recommendations reviewed during this week’s meeting could be formed into legislation that may be debated this session.

One piece of business that was completed this week was a resolution that changed the rules of the Senate. Senate Resolution 1472 changed the number of senators on several standing committees. The number of members on the committees was adjusted due to a change in the number of senators in each party (previously there were 13 minority members and 21 majority members, but the count changed to 14 and 20 when a member switched parties this summer). The resolution was adopted unanimously on Thursday, and adds a member to the following committees: Agriculture, Conservation, Parks & Natural Resources; Commerce, Energy and the Environment; Economic Development, Tourism & Local Government, Education; Financial, Governmental Organizations, and Elections; and Seniors, Families and Public Health. The Small Business, Insurance & Industrial Relations Committee loses one member.

To follow these and other issues facing the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. Visitors can track legislation as it passes through the General Assembly, learn more about their Senate district, or listen to streaming audio of legislative debate as it happens.

The Missouri Senate will reconvene at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14. The Second Regular Session of the 94th Missouri General Assembly will run through Friday, May 16.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Senators Prepare for 2008 Legislative Session

Missouri General Assembly Convenes January 9
Jefferson City — Lawmakers are making the final preparations before the start of the 2008 legislative session on Jan. 9. Prefiled legislation was numbered and available to the public on Dec. 1, and senators have continued to file legislation since that date.
To date (1/3), senators have prefiled more than 200 bills for the 2008 legislative session. Lawmakers have until March 1 to file legislation. A Senate bill is first discussed in committee where lawmakers hear testimony and then vote on whether or not to send the measure forward to the full Senate. Once the Senate approves a bill, it goes to the House for committee discussion and debate. House bills begin the same process in House committees before moving on to the Senate. Any disagreements on legislation are ironed out in a conference committee. When the Legislature completes work on a bill, it is sent to the governor for final approval before being signed into law.
Throughout the interim, committees met in order to prepare for the upcoming session, and many of those meetings could result in legislation this year. The Interim Committee on Consumer and Financial Protection and the Interim Committee on Funding for County Sheriff Offices are expected to produce recommendations in their required reports that could lead to legislation. The Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism, a panel of experts and lawmakers that worked through the interim to study the problem of autism in the state, recently released a report containing 36 recommendations for improved diagnosis, services, and opportunities for those with the disorder.
Current events have stirred interest in several issues that gave way to prefiled bills. In an effort to make an impact on illegal immigration, there have been bills filed to increase limitations on illegal aliens including restricting access to driver’s licenses, higher education at public universities, and employment throughout the state. Rising property assessments have caused some homeowners to question their county’s policy on rolling back property tax levies. This issue has lead to several pieces of legislation to put an end to what supporters are dubbing “back door tax increases.” Legislation to place penalties on those who use the Internet to bully others has also been prefiled. The issue became a focus when a young girl in St. Charles committed suicide, allegedly due to cyber-bullying.
The Missouri Senate will convene at 12 p.m. Wednesday, January 9. The Second Regular Session of the 94th Missouri General Assembly runs through Friday, May 16.
-END-